Seven Chakras of the Cosmic Man
Thangkas are a type of Tibetan Buddhist painting that serve as important teaching tools and which are used in meditation to help bring one further along the path to enlightenment. This thangka cloth, which was painted in Nepal or Tibet in the early 20th century, depicts a loka purusha (cosmic man), which represents the structure of the universe. It is a visualization that likens the macrocosm of all the worlds and heavens to the microcosm of man’s own body, and reveals the cosmic order and inner energy that is experienced through spiritual ascent to complete enlightenment.
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Seen on the cosmic man are the seven chakras, which are various focal points along the spine that are used in a variety of ancient meditation practices called tantra, the esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism that co-developed around the middle of the 1st millennium AD. According to this tradition, the chakras are the spiritual anatomy that accompany the physical body and act as guides along the path of inner awakening.
The coiled snake represents the experience of Kundalini energy, which is described as a cosmic energy that accumulates at the base of the spine and when awakened, rises through the chakras, culminating at the crown of the head and producing a transformational consciousness. Kundalini can be awakened by spiritual practices such as meditation, which is aided by focusing on the thangka.
1) Root Chakra Muladhara (base of the spinal cord)
The Root Chakra is the seat of physical vitality and the fundamental urge to survive. It regulates those mechanisms which keep the physical body alive.
2) Sacral Chakra Swadhisthana (ovaries/prostate)
The Sacral Chakra has a relational energy and is where we develop an inward sense of self and an outward awareness of others, ego, sexuality, and family. The feelings of other people are directly perceived through mastery of this chakra’s energy.
3) Solar Plexus Chakra Nabhi or Manipura (navel)
The Solar Plexus Chakra is located at the center of the body, and is the place where physical energy is distributed. It is the center of unrefined emotions and personal power. It is the center that gives us a sense of complete satisfaction and contentment.
4) Heart Chakra Anahat
The Heart Chakra is the center of real, unconditional affection, spiritual growth, compassion, devotion, and love. It is the bridge connecting the lower and higher energies of our being and is the place where our true self resides.
5) Throat Chakra Vishuddha
The Throat Chakra is the center of communication, self-expression, and creativity. This is where the inner voice of one’s truth is expressed.
6) Third Eye Chakra Ajna (pineal gland)
The Third Eye represents intuition and direct spiritual vision. The opening of the third-eye corresponds with spiritual awakening. It is the chakra of forgiveness and compassion.
7) Crown Chakra Sahasrara (top of the head)
The Crown Chakra represents the highest level of consciousness and enlightenment. It is the connective center to spirit. This center integrates all the chakras with their respective qualities.
The enlightened man is painted against a black background, representing the tantric mysticism. He stands on two fish on a lotus flower, a symbol of purity. A windhorse is seen in the lower left, which is a Tibetan symbol of the human spirit, and is often the pivotal element in the center of the four cardinal directions and used as a symbol of the idea of well-being or good fortune. An array of gods and incarnations connect the yogi to the three realms of the cosmos.
Combining the artistic practices of Indian Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism is a skill unique to the Newar artists of the Kathmandu valley. This thangka is a great example of the rich artistic traditions of Nepal, and the artists' mastery of depicting the metaphysical world through tantric art.